Ban on over-the-counter codeine in Australia to save 100 lives every year: minister

Source: Xinhua| 2018-01-30 12:32:37|Editor: Xiang Bo
Video PlayerClose

CANBERRA, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- Australia's ban on over-the-counter codeine products will save 100 lives every year, Health Minister Greg Hunt has said.

The ban, which came into effect on Thursday, will require people to get a prescription to access painkillers and other low-dose codeine products in an effort to counter codeine addiction, abuse and overdoses.

Greg Hunt said that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) expects the change to save up to 100 lives every year.

"In Australia, more people lose their lives to codeine-related deaths than to heroin," he told Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio on Tuesday.

"It is being done to save lives because codeine is addictive and dangerous and that's why the medical authorities, in line with the other leading countries in the world, are putting this on a prescription basis."

Australia's ban will match similar laws in the United States and Britain.

Codeine is an opioid that converts to morphine inside the body which is commonly used to treat mild pain but doctors have warned that it is not effective at treating chronic pain.

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in July last year revealed that prescription opioids such as codeine, morphine and oxycodone were responsible for two thirds of Australia's 668 deaths from drug overdoses in 2013.

"We know that there are over half a million Australians with some form of codeine addiction," Hunt said.

"It would be almost unthinkable for any responsible government to ignore the unanimous advice of medical authorities."

Four out of every 10 of those opioid-related deaths occurred among people aged between 35 and 44 years old.